A 95-year-old Fort Worth activist known as "The Grandmother of Juneteenth" is one of three pioneering Texans who've been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. Opal Lee, a beloved figure in the Fort Worth community, was nominated by U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, with 32 additional members of Congress signing a January 31 letter of support.
Lee joins Houston's Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, in being nominated for the iconic award. Both doctors have gained national and global acclaim for their battle against COVID-19 and were nominated by Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.
Lee worked for decades to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. She was by President Joe Biden's side at the White House when he signed a law declaring Juneteenth a holiday on June 17, 2021. She has also worked to make Fort Worth home to the National Juneteenth Museum.
In nominating Lee, Veasey says, "I have been proud to call Ms. Lee a friend and mentor for nearly my whole life and was honored to work alongside her to finally get Juneteenth made into a national holiday last year. I cannot think of a better person who has constantly fought for justice, and that is why I am nominating her to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize."
The nomination letter also reads, "As an advocate, Ms. Lee’s hopes to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday went far beyond just recognizing the day that the final enslaved people were notified of their freedom. It is also a symbol of her hope that we as Americans can come together and unify against social issues that are plagues on our nation such as homelessness, education inequality, and food insecurity to name a few."
Hotez and Bottazzi, who are also co-directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, were cited in a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for their work to develop and distribute the low-cost Corbevax vaccine to people of the world — without patent limitation.
“My hope is that the nomination not only recognizes the importance of reducing global vaccine inequities and inequalities, but also raises the awareness regarding the importance of vaccines as lifesaving interventions and combating vaccine hesitancy in the US and globally,” Hotez tells CultureMap.
As ABC13 reports, the Nobel nominations were due Monday, January 31. In March, a shortlist is prepared and then reviewed between April and August. The winners are announced in early October and they receive their awards in Oslo, Norway on December 10.